Top 5 ADN to MSN Bridge Programs

By NurseJournal.org staff



The modern prevalence of virtual schooling has given prospective nurses nationwide the option to pursue degree opportunities at all levels through online and on-campus formats. These programs often share the same course topics, instructors, and degree focus, although online programs allow learners to enjoy a more flexible learning environment.

Nursing students can explore bridge programs, including ADN-to-MSN programs that allow associate degree in nursing (ADN) graduates who hold an active registered nurse (RN) license to complete the requirements to earn a master's in the field at a faster pace.

Since experience in nursing professions drives success, nursing programs that offer the flexibility to allow students to continue working as they earn their degrees is especially beneficial. ADN-to-MSN programs develop learners' skills and knowledge to pursue more specialized nursing roles at a faster pace than traditional routes to earning a master's of science in nursing (MSN) degree.

Top RN-to-MSN Bridge Programs for 2020

Rank University Degree Programs
1 University of Mary - ND ADN to MSN
2 Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) - MA ADN to MSN
3 Frontier Nursing University - KU ADN to MSN
4 Western University - CA ADN to MSN
5 Vanderbilt University - TN ADN to MSN

University of Mary

A private Catholic university located in Bismarck, North Dakota, the University of Mary offers an online ADN-to-MSN program. This accelerated program enables registered nurses to earn their degrees in just 20 months.

Among ADN-to-MSN bridge programs, the University of Mary's stands out for its focus on nursing leadership and management. Nursing students complete courses in healthcare administration, nursing research, and nursing leadership. The curriculum blends advanced nursing courses with classes from the business program and 500 hours of practical leadership experience, building professional skills.

The ADN-to-MSN program requires a minimum 2.75 GPA from the applicant's nursing diploma or associate degree program at an accredited institution. It also requires a current RN license and two letters of reference. The program offers full- and part-time schedules, both of which accommodate working nurses balancing school with their professional careers.

The University of Mary holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

MCPHS University

Founded in 1823 as the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), today MCPHS University offers medical programs at its Boston campus and online. Nurses with an ADN qualify for the RN-to-MSN bridge program with a concentration for family nurse practitioners. A part-time program designed for working nurses, MCPHS incorporates four on-campus meetings and a clinical experience, which students complete locally. Nursing students spend one year completing the BSN bridge coursework followed by MSN coursework.

The curriculum covers advanced pathophysiology, evidence-based practice, advanced health assessment, and family primary care.

Prospective students must hold an ADN from an accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. MCPHS requires current RN licensure and sets prerequisite coursework for admissions. The 62-credit ADN-to-MSN program takes three years to complete for students taking two courses per semester. MCPHS enrolls nursing students for spring or summer start dates.

MCPHS University holds accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

Frontier Nursing University

A private graduate school in Hyden, Kentucky, Frontier Nursing University (FNU) dates back to 1939. With an exclusive focus on nursing education, FNU offers an ADN bridge entry option for its MSN program. Nurses with an associate degree spend one year completing BSN coursework before entering the MSN program. Nursing students then choose a concentration; options include family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or certified nurse-midwife.

The ADN-to-MSN program offers full- and part-time options, plus three brief, on-campus residencies and 675 clinical hours during the MSN coursework. FNU is one of the best ADN-to-MSN bridge programs for nurses considering a doctorate in nursing. After earning an MSN at FNU, nurses only need an additional 19 credits to earn a DNP. Prospective students must have an ADN with a minimum 3.0 GPA from an accredited nursing program, and FNU requires at least one year of nursing experience for admission.

Frontier Nursing University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Western University

Western University specializes in healthcare education. Its ADN-to-MSN bridge programs prepare RNs for clinical and administrative leadership roles or ambulatory care nursing. The flexible curriculum offers two- and three-year tracks, allowing students to balance their studies with their career and family commitments.

The WU program utilizes self-directed learning activities through its online learning platform. Students partake in discussion forums, conduct research, and prepare presentations. They must also attend two weekend seminars each semester on-campus in Pomona, California. These intensive sessions allow students to take part in demonstrations and presentations while interacting with their peers and instructors.

Applicants must hold an associate degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA and active nursing licensure. Students should hold one year of clinical nursing experience. Prerequisite courses include nutrition, anatomy, physiology, and microbiology.

The school's college of graduate nursing holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Its programs also meet licensing standards for the California Board of Registered Nursing. WU holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee began offering nursing education in 1908. Its ASN-to-MSN bridge programs offer an innovative path for nurses expanding their education and career opportunities and those seeking a career change.

The program features a prespeciality curriculum, which prepares students to seek an advanced nursing specialization. Specializations include adult-gerontology, emergency nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, healthcare leadership, nursing informatics, mental health nurse practitioner, and neonatal nurse practitioner. Students can graduate in 2-3 years.

Vanderbilt welcomes applicants with associate degrees in nursing or bachelor's degrees in other fields. Applicants should hold a minimum 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate coursework. RNs need 78 credits covering courses in human anatomy and physiology, nutrition, developmental psychology, and microbiology. RNs must hold a valid nursing license and qualify to practice in their home states.

The modified learning format combines distance education with up to four on-campus sessions each semester. The school works with students to identify appropriate clinical sites near their home areas whenever possible. Nursing programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and approval from the Tennessee Board of Nursing. Vanderbilt maintains regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College (SACSCOC).


What to Expect from an Online ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program

Students can enroll in an RN-to-MSN bridge program or an ADN-to-MSN program through an online format, granting them a faster route to earning their master's degrees. Specific program requirements, admission criteria, and course topics vary depending on the college or university, but degree-seekers can expect to encounter similar program aspects across institutions.

RN-to-MSN programs can serve learners who hold active RN licenses that they earned with either an ADN or BSN, while ADN-to-MSN programs specifically serve learners who hold ADNs with their RN licenses. These programs offer flexible online delivery, typically allowing learners to enjoy the benefits of asynchronous coursework to complete their requirements with added flexibility.

Many ADN-to-MSN programs allow learners to take advantage of accelerated formats to earn their advanced degrees in as little as 24 months.

Many ADN-to-MSN programs allow learners to take advantage of accelerated formats to earn their advanced degrees in as little as 24 months. BSN degree-holders in RN-to-MSN programs can often complete their requirements in 15 months.

During their ADN-to-MSN programs, students can focus on topics such as health promotion and risk reduction; health information and patient care technologies; and healthcare environments and care coordination. While learners in these programs typically complete their course requirements entirely online, some colleges and universities require them to participate in fieldwork, as well.

Each candidate commonly submits a completed application, official associate degree in nursing transcripts, an active and current RN license, a current resume, letters of recommendation, and a criminal background check.

Benefits of an RN-to-MSN Program

RN-to-MSN programs provide degree-seekers with financial and professional benefits. As students save time in these programs, they also save money on tuition. Some colleges and universities offer accelerated formats for RN-to-MSN students, allowing them to earn their degree even faster.

Nursing students can pursue either an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing to qualify for RN licensure. Although both degree types prepare learners for licensure, many employers, especially hospitals, prefer to hire candidates who hold a BSN.

Nursing students can pursue either an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing to qualify for RN licensure.

RNs received a median annual salary of $71,730 in 2018, along with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting an above-average job growth of 12% from 2018-2028. Earning an MSN can allow professionals to take advantage of more specialized job opportunities with corresponding higher salaries.

Many MSN degree-holders pursue careers as nurse practitioners, who earned a median annual salary of $113,930 in 2018, with a faster-than-average projected job growth rate of 26% from 2018-2028. Nurse practitioners can also explore national certification in areas such as geriatrics, pediatrics, and neonatology.